In April 2013, we granted Wish Kid Emma a once-in-a-lifetime experience to visit the set of CBS’s award-winning show NCIS. Emma suffers from cystic fibrosis, an inherited condition characterized by thick, sticky mucus. The life-threatening disease mainly affects the respiratory and digestive systems leading to breathing problems, repeated lung infections and even lung damage. Although there is no cure for the disease, symptoms and severity can vary greatly.
Emma had an extremely memorable time on her wish. She loved meeting the actors and actresses of the hit series and being treated like a star. We checked in with Emma to see what’s been happening in her life since her dream came true.
Kids Wish Network: How is Emma’s health currently?
Suzanne Bush (Emma’s mom): Emma is doing well right now. She does her vest therapy twice a day plus an inhaler and nebulizer. The treatments seem to be maintaining what is considered healthy for someone with CF.
*CF sufferers utilize multiple therapies to help break up the thick, sticky mucus that can cause lung infections. It’s extremely vital to keep the lungs clear to maintain proper breathing abilities. Daily treatments are a way of life for someone with CF; their level of health depends on this routine but even a “healthy” CF sufferer has impacted lung capacity.
KWN: Has her treatment changed since she was first diagnosed?
SB: Emma was diagnosed in 6th grade and had to adopt a new lifestyle with new responsibilities overnight. The hardest part for her was taking all the enzymes she needed for nutrients, but the whole family helped out.
*Enzymes are crucial for people with cystic fibrosis. As part of the symptoms, the illness prevents the body from absorbing nutrients so enzymes are needed to maintain health.
KWN: So the whole family is affected by her illness?
SB: The entire family keeps enzymes everywhere; in the car, camper, kayak, at grandma’s house, school, etc. We all take turns going to Emma’s doctor’s appointments so we are familiar with the disease and the whole family exercises more to help Emma keep her lungs clear. It’s more fun to work out with someone than alone.
KWN: How would you say cystic fibrosis has affected Emma?
SB: Emma doesn’t let anything hold her back. After she was diagnosed, she realized she can still do almost anything any other kid can, it doesn’t matter if she has CF or not. Her major disappointment was realizing she couldn’t keep up in cross country anymore because of her lungs. Instead, she decided that she will do tennis and golf instead of track and cross country.
KWN: Did Emma’s wish help her deal with that disappointment?
SB: Emma never thought she would be granted such an impossible wish. It taught her to reach for the impossible and gave her the confidence to go out and conquer her dreams. Emma’s held lead roles in community theater, been a leader in student council and was chosen as her high school’s Drum Major this year.
KWN: How exciting!
SB: Emma has managed to maintain all A’s in her classes and wants to start college classes next year already. She always says “don’t let anything or anyone hold you back. Don’t let people say you can’t do something because you have CF.”
KWN: She’s really proven that point. What’s been her biggest accomplishment?
SB: This past summer, Emma was one of six kids from her whole school chosen to visit our town’s sister city in Japan. The interviewers knew about her CF and questioned her about it; she blew them away by telling them she had already gotten the green light from her doctor and that they had discussed what to do about her equipment. She was so impressive; the fact that she would plan ahead and take responsibility for her CF. The whole experience really proved to Emma that she can do anything and go anywhere with cystic fibrosis.
KWN: It sounds like there’s a very bright future ahead for Emma. What are some of her plans?
SB: Emma really wants to write a book and become an actress, also get a college degree. Everything Emma has experience has shown her that, even though she has CF, she can still reach for her dreams and conquer the impossible.
While Wish Kid Emma will be dealing with cystic fibrosis for the rest of her life, she is truly an inspiration to everyone. Despite the daily treatments and possibility of dangerous complications, Emma continues to live life to the fullest and achieve her dreams.
Learn more about cystic fibrosis at http://illnessinfo.org/i/cystic-fibrosis and check out Emma’s original wish story here: http://kidswishnetwork.org/2013/04/emma-visits-the-set-of-ncis/.